Longevity Lessons from the ‘Blue’ and ‘unBlue’ zones

Lessons from the worlds longest and shortest lived peoples

Dr. Jason Fung
9 min readJan 24, 2019


In 2005, National Geographic writer Dan Buettner described certain areas of the world where people lived longer, healthier lives as “Blue Zones.” This includes:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece.

People living in these Blue Zone locations reach their 90s and even past 100 (called centenarians) with relatively little age-related disease. Although spread throughout the world, with seemingly widely divergent diets and lifestyles, they all share certain characteristics that may help them live longer, fuller lives. These people often smoke less, move more (and at a moderate level), and prioritize family and socializing above all else. Their diet is often, but not always plant based, with relatively low protein intake, especially from animals. This, by itself proves nothing as most of the world’s diets are plant based but it is instructive to look a little more closely at the diets of these longevity superstars to learn their secrets. You can read more about the science of longevity in The Longevity Solution.

Okinawa, Japan

Across the world, the average number of people who live to be over 100 years of age is only 6.2 per 100,000. According to their 2017 census, Japan boasted the world’s highest proportion at 34.85 per 100,000 population. But the tiny Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, in 1990 crushed even that number with an astounding 39.5 per 100,000. Okinawan men typically live to the age of 84, while the women average 90 years, despite being Japan’s poorest prefecture with the lowest number of physicians per capita.Further, they suffer small fractions of the rates of diseases that typically kill Westerners: 20% the rate of heart disease and breast and prostate cancer, and less than half the rate of Alzheimer’s disease. Tellingly, the diet in Okinawa changed significantly in recent years, becoming more Westernized and by year 2000, the Okinawan longevity advantage had largely vanished. Nevertheless, good data about the traditional diet of Okinawa can give us clues to their longevity.

The traditional diet of Okinawans was about 80% carbohydrates, consisting of sweet potatoes, vegetables, and some grains. Just…



Dr. Jason Fung

Nephrologist. New York Times best selling author. Interest in type 2 diabetes reversal and intermittent fasting. Founder www.TheFastingMethod.com.